Avera Medical Minute: Mom donates breast milk to help NICU babies

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Ashley Tarasar has very full days as a new mom, veterinarian, and farmer. She has set another top priority to help other moms, requiring an occasional delivery to Sioux Falls.

donated breast milk at avera mckennan milk depot sioux falls

"I really just wanted it to go to those who would benefit the most from it," said Tarasar. She makes the time to donate breast milk for the babies in the NICU or ICU. "I pumped it either at home here or at work, then it went into the freezer, into the specific milk freezer bags, and I packaged them a bunch of little bags to a gallon freezer bag," said Tarasar.

She chose to donate through the milk depot at Avera McKennan in Sioux Falls because she liked who would receive the benefits. "What comes from Sioux Falls, goes back to Sioux Falls, so I thought that was pretty cool," said Tarasar.

If a baby can start off on breast milk, they receive benefits to their immune system, while digesting the easiest nutrition for their little bodies, according to International Board Certified Lactation consultant Lynn Josten.

"We know how valuable human milk feeding is for babies, especially our preemies and our NICU moms. And sometimes we have moms that aren't able to produce enough milk right away for their babies, and we want those good immune benefits and the healthy things breast milk can do to be available right from the very beginning," said Josten.

The day a baby is born, their stomach can be as small as this cherry, so donated milk can easily benefit hundreds of babies. New Moms can take comfort in the fact that milk donors are carefully screened, similar to those who donate blood.

"It's tested three and four times, so we test the donor, we test the milk after it's donated. We take care of a lot of concerns that way," said Josten.

Donors need to complete a form, get a signature from their doctor and have a blood test, which is paid for by the milk bank. Then it's time to pump the milk and get it in the freezer. Dawn Ver Hoeven is the Avera Laboratory Operations Manager.

"As donors bring it in, it comes in their individual packages, they make sure to label it with what's in each package and put their donor number on there, so we can track it back to the individual that donated it," said Ver Hoeven.

It's a network of Moms helping moms, to give little ones the best possible start in life.